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. >>> well, the other big story today is the end of an era for the roman catholic church. pope benedict xvi set down a few hours ago. [ church bells tolling ] >> a white helicopter transported benedict to a 17th century palace. he will return to vatican city as pope emeritus, the first pope to retire in nearly 6 centuries. this historic event is drawing bay area catholics to church in the middle of the week. kpix 5 reporter cate caugiran went to mass this morning at st. mary's in san francisco where she asked catholics about their hopes for the future. >> reporter: archbishop john quinn opened this morning's mass calling this a historic moment for catholics. >> resignation was an act of faith. >> reporter: it was a special day of mass to celebrate pope benedict on the final day of his pontificate. worshippers were thankful and no feelings of animosity. >> i had read some of his books and in those reflections he mentioned about the fact that, you know, possibly this might be his decision if god chose and wanted him to do that. he is a faithful pope an
towed to mobile, alabama at about 8 miles per hour. >>> pope benedict xvi celebrates the last public mass as pontiff. danielle nottingham is in vatican city. >> reporter: pope benedict walked slowly with two aides at his side as he entered s t. peter's fsh ash wednesday mass. -- peter's ash wednesday wednesday. today marks the beginning of the holy season of lent for catholics. earlier, thousands of faithful stood and applauded pope benedict before the weekly audience. the pope spoke briefly in english. >> this this season, christ knocks at our door. >> reporter: in italian, the pope said he is resigning for the good of the church. the 85-year-old is stepping down because he says he no longer has the physical or mental strength to lead. spectators say he was better than expected. >> he was happy and lovely to see that. always smiling. >> i thought it was a special day. very moving. >> reporter: the vatican announced today the conclave will begin in mid 46 march. they'll t college of cardinals will choose the exact date when they gather
benedict had big shoes to fill in 2005 when cardinals chose him to succeed john paul ii. one of his biggest tasks was responding to the priest sexual abuse scandal. >> indeed, i am deeply sorry. >> reporter: pope benedict issued an apology to victims and said the church made serious mistakes. today the pontiff called his choice reresign "a decision of great importance for the life of the church" and said he will dedicate the rest of his life to prayer. contend, to replace him include the archbishops of vienna and milan, cardinal timothy dolan of new york is a long shot. >> what happens next at the vatican? >> reporter: what happens next is that the vatican will announce a date for the conclave which is when the world's voting cardinals will come to rome to vote for the next pope. in the meantime, the pope says he will continue to work doing what he normally does. >> anna matranga live at the vatican, thank you so much. >>> and the pope's decision is drawing varied reactions from catholics here in san francisco. some are concerned about the timing
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